Young women, Fortune magazine tells us, are about to learn a very hard life lesson. If they thrilled to the news that Apple and Facebook are now going to pay for them to freeze their eggs, they will not be happy to discover the truth about the procedure.
Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos explains that certain forces in the media and the culture have been covering up the truth, thus giving young women a false impression that they can delay childbearing as long as they wish, the better to advance their careers.
Egg freezing is far from settled science. In the UK, which is one of the few countries to track and account for fertility treatment outcomes, only 20 babies have been born from frozen eggs, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). And no one knows for sure how egg freezing chemicals are absorbed by eggs, or how they affect cell development.
For a 38-year-old woman, the chance of one frozen egg leading to a live birth is only 2% to 12%, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). This is a key finding given that the average age of non-medical egg freezing customers in the U.S. is 37.4.
Amid the latest tech perk bragging rights, sobering facts about the procedure’s limitations and the associated risks have been overlooked and underreported.
First, most people don’t realize the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the ASRM do not endorse the use of egg freezing to defer childbearing. The ASRM’s decision to lift the “experimental” label from this still young procedure in 2012 only applied to medically indicated need, such as women with cancer.
Second, there are no guarantees for a successful or healthy pregnancy and delivery. In order to attempt pregnancy, egg freezing must be followed by in vitro fertilization (IVF) with another laboratory procedure, a technique known as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). For the latest flash freezing process trumpeted by enterprising fertility clinics and a host of profit-driven service providers, the most comprehensive data available reveals a 77% failure rate of frozen eggs resulting in a live birth in women aged 30, and a 91% failure rate in women aged 40.
For women who want to have children, the old fashioned way is still the best… by far. If that does not work, women have every right to avail themselves of the best that modern technology has to offer.
Yet, telling young women that deferring childbearing is just another lifestyle choice, one that will not exact a cost beyond the price your employer is willing to pay, is dishonest.